“We’re getting married this fall, so we figured getting a place now would alleviate some stress,” my then-boyfriend explained to a somewhat snide real estate agent. He put an arm around my nervous body, reassuring me with his touch.
He was always so effortlessly charming like that, able to step in when I got too awkward or insecure. He was that guy everyone loved, and yet somehow, he loved me.
Sometimes, that very thought kept me awake at night, fireflies dancing around my ribcage. He gave me so much light that it was too bright to sleep. He loved me so deeply. And I loved him right back.
The real estate agent flashed us both a smile, the kind of smile you see in a poorly acted PSA. Just so fake. It was like she was reading statistics in our eyes. The percentages of young couples who ACTUALLY make it. High school sweethearts who stay sweet on each other until the end. She was predicting our ending, calculating a number in her head.
“This is definitely a great choice for couples just starting out on their own. Here, let me show you the courtyard,” Her cheshire smile growing larger, beckoning us both towards the front of the apartment. My boyfriend (who we can just call BF from here on out) squeezed my shoulder and leaned over to whisper, “There’s something kind of horrible about her, huh?” I laughed, and then hushed him, afraid she might have heard.
She continued giving us a tour, explaining this wall would be repainted of course, and that kitchen sink was going to be replaced. BF nodded intently, occasionally asking some random question. I stayed quiet, just smiling at him, sneaking a kiss every time her back was to us.
She was right to be skeptical of us. We weren’t actually engaged or looking for a place together. It was our last summer before he moved across the country for school and we decided to do every weird, zany thing we could think of. And that day? I put on a fake engagement ring and we went driving around, looking for open houses.
He was a theater kid in high school and I loved performing, so it wasn’t that out of character for us to do something a little off-the-wall like that. Just some innocent role-playing, two kids who wanted to play house, feel a little more in control. We created entire backstories in case anyone asked, plans for when the wedding would be, jobs we both had, added a few years to our actual ages. It was much more intoxicating to slip into this fantasy world we created together instead of facing a very harsh reality:
Soon, we’d be apart.
We were just eighteen, so full of ideas and expectations. He was the only boy I’d ever let sleep in my bed. It was a running joke amongst my friends, “Ari loves to snuggle with her platonic friends, but if she actually likes you romantically? She is NOT into cuddling.” And it was true, I couldn’t explain why. I just didn’t like to be held or share too much space. But for BF, I broke all the rules.
He slept over most nights that summer, and even when it got sweaty from the body heat and his soft snoring woke me up, I would look over and see his one dimple, and then I didn’t mind the extra company at all.
There was that one night he pulled off to the side of the road and cranked the stereo, letting Frank Sinatra’s dreamy voice echo off the canyons. He held me close and we swayed together in the middle of an empty road, the moon our only audience.
I came home that night, sat on my mom’s bed and just started tearing up. My mom immediately went on guard, ready to destroy anyone who made me cry and I explained, “No. No, these are happy tears.”
I began softly sobbing, with an occasional embarrassed laugh, and every time I tried to explain why, my words would fail. I finally spit it out.
“I’m so in love with him. This is so scary, Mom.”
And I was, and it was. In the best way possible.
Hell, if we’d had our way, I think we would have run off to Vegas and made the getting married thing real.
The real estate agent showed us the living room, made a joke about future babies, and my heart swelled. I thought about little babies with BF’s one dimple. I always said it looked like someone stuck a quarter in his cheek, just this funny little indent. It was only on one cheek, and I was stupidly enchanted with it. I would kiss it, think about it, tell him how much I loved it.
An apartment of our own. A little brown-haired toddler running around with one dimple. This overwhelming, all-consuming love we shared, forever. I was high on it all.
But as so many young couples face, there was an ending to our fantasy.
I’m not sure who he is anymore. How utterly strange that is when I used to read his body like a map.
You can be ready to marry someone, perhaps naively, and when enough years pass, you can’t even remember which cheek that dimple is on.